For the first time in history, we are interacting with computers so sophisticated that we think they’re human beings. This is a remarkable feat of human ingenuity, but what does it say about our humanity? Are we really no better at being human than the machines we’ve created?
By mimicking our behaviour and conversation, computers have recently come within a single vote of passing the Turing Test, the widely accepted threshold at which a machine can be said to be ‘thinking’ or ‘intelligent’. Brian Christian takes the recent and breathtaking advances in artificial intelligence as the opportunity to rethink what it means to be human, and what it means to be intelligent, in the 21st century. Competing head-to-head with the world’s leading AI programmes at the 2009 Turing Test competition (where he was awarded the prize for ‘The Most Human Human’), he uses their astonishing achievements as well as their equally fascinating failings, to reveal our most human abilities: to learn, to communicate, to intuit and to understand. And in an age when computers may be steering us away from these activities, he shows us how to become the most human humans that we can be.
Drawing on science, philosophy, literature and the arts, and touching on aspects of life as diverse as language, work, school, chess, speed-dating, art, video games, psychiatry and the law, Brian Christian shows that far from being a threat to our humanity, computers provide a better means than ever before of understanding what it is to be human.
Brian Christian was born in 1984. He holds a dual degree from Brown University in computer science and philosophy, and an MFA in poetry. His work has appeared in both literary and scientific journals. In 2009, he competed with the world’s leading artificial intelligence software at the international Turing Test competition, where he was awarded the prize for ‘The Most Human Human’. The Most Human Human: A Defence of Humanity in the Age of the Computer is his first book.
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